Denver Newsroom, Jan 27, 2021 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- Poet Amanda Gorman made a splash with her performance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. But less than two years earlier, she performed a strongly pro-abortion poem that championed abortion access as necessary to secure equality, to escape from poverty, and to achieve the freedom to determine family size.
Her poem charged that those who advocate abortion bans aim to control women and sustain the “patriarchy.”
Her performance, carried by Now This News in May 2019, took place when Gorman was a 21-year-old undergraduate at Harvard University. She argued against proposed abortion restrictions in Alabama, Georgia, and elsewhere.
“Fight for Roe v. Wade in the United States,” she said, “because this change can’t wait.”
“We are never alone when we fight fire with feminism. We will not be masquerade to the tale of a handmaid. We will not let Roe v. Wade slowly fade,” she said.
The Alabama legislation passed in 2019 was intended to be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated legal abortion nationwide. The legislation made attempting or performing an abortion a felony offense, except in cases of a serious health risk to the mother. Doctors who performed abortion could be charged with a Class A felony and face between 10 years and life in prison.
The penalty applied only to doctors, not to mothers, who would not face criminal penalties for undergoing abortions.
The Alabama legislation had the support of then-Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham. He said that the legislation reflected “the strong commitment that the people of Alabama have to life.” He voiced strong support for the bills, hoping that they would eventually “make the killing of unborn children in our country something that is no longer viewed as anything but the horrendous and inhumane killing of the most innocent among us that it is.”
The Georgia legislation of that year banned abortions after the detection of an unborn baby’s heartbeat, usually between six to eight weeks into pregnancy. Exceptions were made for cases of rape, a threat to the life of the mother, or the baby being “diagnosed as medically futile.”
Federal judges blocked both laws from taking effect. However, changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court have prompted pro-life groups to voice hope that abortion restrictions may be upheld in coming years.
Gorman’s 2019 performance depicted legal abortion as liberating.
“Through forcing them into motherhood before they’re ready, these bans steadily sustain the patriarchy but also chain families in poverty. And maintain economic inequality,” she said. “Pregnancy is a private and personal decision and should not require the permission of any politician.”
Even if abortion is made a crime, she said, “women have and will always seek their own reproductive destinies.”
“All these penalties do is subdue women’s freedom to get healthy, safe services when they most need them,” she continued.
Gorman depicted abortion as the foundation of equality.
“If the sexes and all people are to be equal, abortion has to be actually accessible and not just technically legal,” she said. This “isn’t only about women and girls, this fight is about fundamental civil rights. Women are a big part of it but at the heart of it are freedom over how fast our families grow.”
Gorman was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
In her Inauguration Day performance of the poem “The Hill We Climb,” Gorman described herself as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother.” She is a Catholic who grew up in a historically Black Los Angeles Catholic church. CNA sought comment from Gorman but did not receive a response by deadline.
Her Jan. 20 inauguration performance and her poem’s lofty sentiments drew praise from many observers.
“And yes we are far from polished. / Far from pristine. / But that doesn’t mean we are / striving to form a union that is perfect. / We are striving to forge a union with purpose, / to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and / conditions of man,” she said.
“But one thing is certain, / If we merge mercy with might, / and might with right, / then love becomes our legacy, / and change our children’s birthright,” she continued.
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed / a nation that isn’t broken, / but simply unfinished,” said her poem.
Gorman’s 2019 pro-abortion rights performance appears to link pro-life advocacy with the alternative right, a hardline right-wing movement.
“The alt-right’s biggest blunder is that most Americans aren’t under their impression that a woman’s body is up to them to decide,” Gorman said.
As CNA reported in August 2017, some alt-right commentators tend to voice strong support for abortion in non-white communities. In a 2016 article for Radix Journal, a alt-right publication started by self-avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer, the writer Aylmer Fisher criticized the “pro-life temptation.”
Fisher criticized pro-lifers who oppose abortion because it is racist. Instead, he argued that the pro-life position is “dysgenic” because it does not oppose birth among populations that are more likely to be below the poverty line and more likely to be of African-American or Hispanic heritage.
“The alt-right is skeptical, to say the least, of concepts like ‘equality’ and ‘human rights,’ especially as bases for policy,” Fisher said. “The unborn fetus has no connection to anyone else in the community.”
The largest abortion provider in the U.S., Planned Parenthood, has long come under criticism for the views of its founder Margaret Sanger. In July 2020, amid debate about historic figures and their views on race, the Greater New York affiliate of Planned Parenthood, announced that it would remove Sanger’s name from its Manhattan building because of her support for eugenics.
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